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Bill criminalizing female genital mutilation moves toward House floor

Gabby Dance

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A bill that would criminalize female genital mutilation is likely to soon reach the floor of Alabama House of Representatives.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Rod Scott, D-Fairfield, defines FGM as practices that “remove, cut, circumcise, excise, mutilate, infibulate or reinfibulate” any part of the genitals for non-medical purposes on females under the age of 19.

Anyone who commits, knowingly allows or authorizes these acts will be guilty of a Class B felony. HB 421 would also make it a Class B felony to knowingly take a child out of state so FGM could be performed on them.

The law states that religious or cultural practices cannot be used to defend the act in court. FGM would also still be illegal if the underage child agreed to the act.

The law does not apply to medical procedures performed by a licensed practitioner to preserve the patient’s health.

“Female genital mutilation is a human rights violation, plain and simple, and this heinous act is also child abuse,” said Elizabeth Yore, head of anti-FGM organization EndFGMToday. “It’s sickening to know that over half a million girls women and girls are at risk of FGM right here in the United States.”

FGM became a felony in 1996 under the Female Genital Mutilation Act. Last year, that law was deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge, leaving regulations to the practice up to the states.

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Now, 32 states have criminalized FGM. Eighteen states, including Alabama, have yet to do so.

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Almost 1,500 girls under the age of 18 are in danger of being victims of FGM, according to the Population Reference Bureau.

According to Yore, the practice is recognized by the World Health Organization and the United Nations as a human rights violation.

 

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